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Scientists identify two areas on Earth where life can’t exist

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Sometimes it is said that life has adapted everywhere on earth, even in the most difficult environments. However, there are limits beyond which even the most resistant and “extremophilic” forms of terrestrial life cannot take root or flourish, as explained in a new study that appeared in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

According to the researchers, the warm salt lakes of the African Rift Valley and the dry cold soils of the Antarctic Shackleton Glacier Valley are two examples where no life is possible and where the conditions, as the researchers themselves have discovered, are too hostile to anyone, even the most resistant micro-organisms.

In the warm salt lakes of the Dallol region, in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, for example, the water is so acidic due to volcanic gases coming from below, and the temperature is so high that, as researchers explain, no micro-organism can survive. The researchers used various techniques, including cellular selection, microscopy and genomics, to search with almost absolute precision for signs of life in the waters they analyzed.

In some of the isolated lakes and ponds of the Ethiopian Rift Valley, where salt concentrations exceed 50% and acidity is very high, researchers have found no signs of life. They only found mineral spheres that could be interpreted as “microfibres,” even if the researchers themselves exclude that they were created by a particular life form.

Too high a magnesium content, an element characteristic of the high salinity associated with high acidity, is too high and causes the destruction of cell membranes of every living thing, as explained by Purificación López-García, a biologist at the University of Paris-South and one of the authors of the study.

Other researchers even found in the Shackleton Glacier Valley, in Antarctica, conditions so extreme that they could not support any form of life. Here, for hundreds of thousands of years, the soil has been affected by cold, dry winds. In some of the older, higher soils, the researchers found no sign of life. According to Nicholas Dragone, a researcher at the University of Colorado in Boulder, who took and analyzed the samples, these soils are completely inhospitable because they have no trace of liquid water.


Related Articles and Sources:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/some-spots-earth-are-too-hostile-life

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-1005-0

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Bob Miller

Bob was Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Denver from 2011-2018 and now works as a practicing psychiatrist. As a passionate scientist, he founded the website ABC 14 News in early 2019 with the goal of delivering accurate and useful scientific reporting, and has since built it up as a valuable publication. While his field is in psychology, Bob also has a strong general understanding of many other fields in health, astronomy and applied science, and is able to write in a way that is easily understandable to the layman.

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Deep artificial neural networks are being used to understand the brain

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Artificial neural networks for predicting brain reactions to any visual stimulus: this is what the scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Tübingen, Germany, have developed. This is a relatively new computational approach that can be used, as stated in a press release presenting the research that appeared in Nature Neuroscience, to dismantle the nervous mechanisms of sensation and, in principle, to automatically understand what the brain likes to see.

“We want to understand how vision works. We approached this study by developing an artificial neural network that predicts the neural activity produced when an animal looks at images. If we manage to build such an avatar of the visual system, we can conduct essentially unlimited experiments. So we can go back and test real brains with what we call inceptive loops,” says Andreas Tolias, Baylor professor and senior research author.

To understand how the brain works by reconstructing information about photons hitting the retina, scientists conducted experiments on mice, showing more than 5,000 natural images and recording neural activity while the images were coming, as Edgar Y explains. Walker, a former lab student in Tolias and now a researcher, has a Tübingen researcher who is also involved in the research. Through the data obtained, the researchers have “trained” a deep artificial neural network to mimic the way biological neurons react to visual stimuli.

“To see if the network had really learned to predict neural responses to visual images, just like a mouse’s living brain, we showed images of the network that it had not seen during science and saw that it was predicting biological neural responses with high precision,” explains Fabian Sinz, another researcher involved in the study.

This study will be useful to better understand how the highly complex neurophysiological processes that use the brain are introduced to enable us to see.


Related Articles and Sources:

https://www.bcm.edu/news/brain/deep-neural-networks-what-brains-like

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-019-0517-x

Image Credit:

https://d2r55xnwy6nx47.cloudfront.net/uploads/2018/03/RecycleNetwork_1300Lede1.jpg

Bob Miller

Bob was Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Denver from 2011-2018 and now works as a practicing psychiatrist. As a passionate scientist, he founded the website ABC 14 News in early 2019 with the goal of delivering accurate and useful scientific reporting, and has since built it up as a valuable publication. While his field is in psychology, Bob also has a strong general understanding of many other fields in health, astronomy and applied science, and is able to write in a way that is easily understandable to the layman.

2930 Scheuvront Drive, Denver Colorado, 80211
303-458-7258
Bob@abc14news.com
Bob Miller
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According to new research, the universe could be curved

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Nowadays, the most popular theories about the structure of the universe seem to suggest that the latter has a flat form: the universe seems to stretch in every direction, without borders and without turning away from each other, as would happen with a curved universe, for example in the form of a sphere, or a closed universe. In a “closed” universe, starting from any point and travelling long enough in a straight line, you will return to the starting point.

Now a new study that has appeared in Nature Astronomy seems to contradict the theories that have gained more strength in recent years: according to the authors of this new study, which was based on cosmic microwave data, the universe could have been curved. It would have a very weak curve, a flexural curve so imperceptible that it would have absolutely no effect on our existence or even on our own galaxy, but it would allow, absurdly, the traveler who left the point to reach the same point without ever turning back.

According to Alessandro Melchiorre, one of the authors of the study, the first reason why most astronomers believe that the universe is flat is because the physics of exponential expansion occurred at the beginning of the big bang, when from an infinitely small point the space grew with incredible speed and even more incredible distances (we are talking about a small fraction of a second after the big bang). However, the researchers noticed an anomaly in the cosmic background radiation, the oldest thing we can observe in our universe and which is created by electromagnetic radiation, which comes to us in the form of microwaves, considered to be the “remnant” of the event associated with the big bang.

According to researchers, there would be more “gravitational lenses” in this background radiation than expected. A gravitational lens is the effect of the light itself being attracted by gravity and then deformed. This means that CMB microwaves can be bent more than expected, and that’s more than the physics we’ve developed today can explain. To reach this conclusion, scientists used the latest data from the Planck experiment, released last year, an experiment that mapped the same CMB in much more detail.

In connection with the possibility of a greater ‘gravitational lens’ effect in CMB, researchers are now talking about a new additional variable called ‘A_lens’, a variable that would have little to do with the same theory of relativity to understand the very labile theoretical environment in which the same scientists live: “We discovered that we could explain A_lens with a positively curved universe that is a much more physical interpretation than one that can be explained by general relativity,” explains Melchiorre in an article on “Live Science” in connection with the publication of a new study.

According to Andrei Linde, a well-known cosmologist from Stanford, this new study did not take into account another important study published on October 1 in arXiv (not yet reviewed). It would be a document in which two cosmologists from Cambridge, George Efstathiou and Steven Gratton, who also worked on the Planck project, came to conclusions that indicate that the universe is flat.

In addition, according to Linde, a new study of natural astronomy, although commendable, would be based on too small a piece of data from Planck.


Related Articles and Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/universe-may-be-curved.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-019-0906-9

Image Credit:

https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/universe-in-giant-loop.jpg?quality=90&strip=all

Bob Miller

Bob was Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Denver from 2011-2018 and now works as a practicing psychiatrist. As a passionate scientist, he founded the website ABC 14 News in early 2019 with the goal of delivering accurate and useful scientific reporting, and has since built it up as a valuable publication. While his field is in psychology, Bob also has a strong general understanding of many other fields in health, astronomy and applied science, and is able to write in a way that is easily understandable to the layman.

2930 Scheuvront Drive, Denver Colorado, 80211
303-458-7258
Bob@abc14news.com
Bob Miller
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“Artificial leaf” to create methanol from carbon dioxide produced by scientists

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When we talk about technologies that can convert elements such as carbon into fuel, we often quote the term ‘artificial leaf’, because converting carbon dioxide into useful fuel is more or less what a plant does when it converts the same carbon dioxide into oxygen. And we talk about an “artificial leaf” in a press release issued by the Waterloo University website, according to which a team of researchers who published their research on Nature Energy developed a new technology that “imitates the real leaf and photosynthesis process,” as explained Yimin Wu, Professor of Engineering at the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology and Principal Author of the research.

Scientists have developed a method for producing methanol from carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is considered to be the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, according to death, global warming and the possibility of using it for something useful from the fuel point of view, which is methanol, would mean “killing two birds with one stone.” Researchers used copper oxide, a relatively cheap red powder resulting from a chemical reaction with four substances: glucose, copper acetate, sodium hydroxide, and dodecyl sodium sulfate.

This powder acts as a catalyst for a second chemical reaction, which is performed by blowing carbon dioxide into the water and using a white light beam that simulates solar radiation. Finally, a chemical reaction is obtained which produces oxygen, as well as photosynthesis of plants and methanol. Methanol can be collected when it evaporates when the solution is heated.

Nowadays, researchers are working to increase the efficiency of the amount of methanol that can be obtained from the reaction and to understand whether this process can be marketed and thus made available to everyone.

“Climate change is an urgent problem and we can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions while developing an alternative fuel,” explains Wu.


Related Articles and Sources:

https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/scientists-create-artificial-leaf-turns-carbon-dioxide-fuel

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-019-0490-3

Image Credit:

https://themindunleashed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Artifical-Leaf.jpg

Bob Miller

Bob was Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of Denver from 2011-2018 and now works as a practicing psychiatrist. As a passionate scientist, he founded the website ABC 14 News in early 2019 with the goal of delivering accurate and useful scientific reporting, and has since built it up as a valuable publication. While his field is in psychology, Bob also has a strong general understanding of many other fields in health, astronomy and applied science, and is able to write in a way that is easily understandable to the layman.

2930 Scheuvront Drive, Denver Colorado, 80211
303-458-7258
Bob@abc14news.com
Bob Miller
Continue Reading

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